Go ahead, tick off the Saudis (and the Israelis, too)

The image of Israel as David encircled by hostile Arab Goliaths and therefore facing imminent extinction no longer conforms to the facts, if it ever did. That Israel still confronts threats to its security is doubtless true. Yet equally true is the fact that Israel exacerbates those threats through ill-advised actions such as settlement expansion in the West Bank and heavy-handed treatment of Palestinians. The U.S. commitment to ensure Israel’s right to exist is irrevocable. Why that commitment should extend to underwriting Israeli policies that then cause headaches for the United States elsewhere is no longer self-evident…

Scaremongers suggest that courting Iran implies a willingness to sell out Iran’s adversaries. In fact, the recalibration of relationships now underway points to something quite different: It holds out the prospect of putting U.S.-Israeli and U.S.-Saudi relations on a more businesslike footing.

Diplomacy is transactional. Successful diplomacy means striking the right balance between give and get. However belatedly, the Obama administration recognizes that when it comes to Israel and Saudi Arabia, the United States has done too much giving and too little getting while paying too high a price. Obama aims to fix that.

He may not succeed. But if he does, who cares if an Israeli prime minister and a Saudi monarch express a bit of pique?